A Canadian journalist allegedly attacked by the White House for reports on the plunging morale of American troops in Iraq says he's not surprised his original story touched a nerve.
ABC News correspondent Jeffrey Kofman says many soldiers he interviewed in Baghdad question why they're still there. Some openly criticized Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for delaying their return home.
According to the Washington Post, an operative from the White House decided to respond to Kofman's coverage by sending some personal details about him to well known U.S. Internet journalist Matt Drudge.
Two facts were played up: first, he's openly gay, and second, he's Canadian. Critics slammed the attempt to use nationalism and homophobia to try to discredit an unflattering news report.
"I think it's not surprising in certain ways that a provocative story provokes," Kofman said in a telephone interview from Iraq. But he's not sure why anyone would want to "out" him as a Canadian, or how any of the details of his life could be seen as a "smear."
"It's all a little perplexing and kind of a sideshow," he added, noting that the real story is what's going on in Iraq.
"I think you just have to kind of look at this and roll your eyes and move on."
ABC TV stood by its reporter Friday, and said any attempts to discredit him based on his sexual orientation or place of birth would be outrageous.
The White House would not comment on allegations that one of its employees tried to get back at Kofman by sending personal information about him to an Internet gossip site. But officials made it clear such action would not be condoned.
U.S. military officials, meanwhile, said the soldiers who openly criticized their superiors could face internal discipline. An investigation is expected.